Article Archives

Starting your own colt
Colt Starting Quiz
Problem Horses, part 1
Fear Problems, part 2
Bad Actors, part 3
The Cold Backed Horse
Want to Compete?
Bit Basics
Going Places
Common Sense, Horse Sense
Horsemen's Christmas
Rainy Day Training
Try Something Different!
Green Broke
Resolution Time
Going in Circles
Hot Enough for Ya?
Pleasure or Equitation?
Return to Work Carefully
Saving your "Good Stuff"
Holding Western Reins
Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
Cold Weather Warm Up
Expect the Unexpected, 1
Expect the Unexpected, 2
Bad Attitude
Horse of a Better Color?
Power of Exercise
Importance of the Herd
Bath Time
Even Up
Choosing a Martingale
A Good Night's Sleep
Alternative Therapies, Part One
Alternative Therapies, Part Two
Get the Most out of a Clinic
Blanket or No Blanket?
Does Practice Make Perfect?
A Change of Pace
The Power of Observation
On Line Horse Trading
The Right Horse at the Right Time
Putting On A Show
Weather Or Not
A Lifetime of Stall Cleaning
Water Obstacles
Who's Your Trainer?
Make a Long Day Easier
A Good Place to Start

Making a long Day Easier … for the people too!

In the April article, I detailed how we changed our routine at the show to help our horses hold up to the long day. It’s not just the horses who get exhausted, dehydrated and cranky – it happens to us humans too!

This was a lesson I learned for myself, the hard way. Early in my career, I was working at a large show barn as the assistant trainer, and was responsible for the youth riders at the shows. I was also showing one horse of my own. We routinely got up at 5 AM to start preparing for the early classes, then showed all day. And, I routinely developed what I called “the horseshow headache” by early afternoon. Sometimes by evening I was too ill to go to dinner and would crash on my cot. And for a big show, this might be repeated for three to five days in a row. It made showing a miserable affair, and if you remember my previous article about nasty, grumpy Harley … well I was about of the same attitude!

About this time I began working with a talented young Horsemanship rider who would cause a great deal of concern by fainting in the show ring. After a particularly embarrassing session when the show management called an ambulance, her parents took her to a doctor. His advice? Drink water. This got us all thinking more about how we were taking care of ourselves at the show. We were putting a lot of effort into caring for our horses but we were neglecting ourselves. Over the next few years we started paying as close attention to our own program as we did our horses.

1. Eat, Drink . . . We started scheduling breakfast and required everyone to eat something. At first there was a lot of resistance to eating – many of the students claimed to be too nervous to eat, and I was “too busy.” But we assigned one person (the mother of the fainting student) to make sure everyone ate something wholesome in the morning – a little yogurt, a half bagel and cream cheese, a granola bar or some fruit. We also started a campaign to drink water or sports drinks all day. Everyone carried a water bottle right up to the entry gate, and someone handed it back to the rider as she exited the ring. The fainting stopped, the irritability was reduced and “magically” my horse show headaches went away.

2. . . . and be Merry. I started paying more attention to the stress and nervousness of my students. There are many great books, audio tapes and videos about the mental aspects of competing. Mental Toughness Training for Sports, by James E. Loehr, was a breakthrough read for me. A positive mental attitude can be learned, and we started making time to work on our attitudes both at the show and during the training process. Needless to say, the horses appreciated the new approach too.

3. Schedule rest times. Very much like scheduling the feed and rest breaks for our horses, I started looking at the show schedule and consciously picking times for the riders to rest. Getting off the horse, taking off the helmet and the chaps, and sitting in the shade for 20 minutes let everyone relax. It’s very tempting to try to go in every class one is eligible for every show. It’s better to make a goal, pick those classes that apply to that goal and only go in the “for fun” classes if everything is going well. Extend this idea of rest time to include the night before a show – try to get a decent night’s sleep and avoid partying too late when that alarm clock is going to go off at 4 AM!

4. Think cool, or warm. Horse events happen in all kinds of weather. Have a plan and an outfit for whichever it is. Insisting on wearing the thin silk shirt in freezing weather, or the brocade jacket when its 110 degrees, is setting yourself up for a miserable time. Keep a sun hat handy to wear between classes, carry a portable fan or a spritz bottle of water.

A few changes in our program made a world of difference in how much we all enjoyed our day at a show. It may sound like common sense … and it is. It is also easy to forget, so add water, healthy snacks and someone to be in charge of them to your horse show list, and when looking over that next show premium, think about where your rest times are going to fit in. A little planning goes a long way.


Doris Eraldi of Eraldi Training in Potter Valley, specializes in training for all around horsemanship. She can be contacted at 707-743-1337, or by e-mail

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